Cat Osterman

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Monica Abbott, Cat Osterman headline U.S. Olympic softball roster

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Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, the last two pitchers for the U.S. softball team before the sport was cut from the Olympics in 2008, are the only two returning U.S. Olympians for softball’s return to the Games in Tokyo next summer.

Abbott and Osterman headline the 15-player roster named Sunday after selection trials this past week in Oklahoma City.

The U.S. will be a medal favorite in Tokyo, where both baseball and softball return to the Games after being voted off the program for 2012 and 2016. Baseball and softball will not be on the 2024 Paris Games and are not guaranteed to be on the Olympic program beyond that.

The Americans dramatically won the 2018 World Championship, beating Japan on a walk-off in the gold-medal game to clinch an Olympic berth. Japan will also compete as the host nation, along with Italy, Mexico, Canada and Australia.

In 2008, Japan beat the U.S. in what was, at the time, the last Olympic softball game. It marked the only time the U.S. failed to earn gold in the sport that debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Baseball and softball had already been voted off the program for 2012.

Osterman started that final, going five innings, before Abbott pitched the final two frames of a 3-1 loss. Japanese ace Yukiko Ueno, who threw a complete game, is still active, too.

The full U.S. Olympic softball team:

Monica Abbott
Ali Aguilar
Valerie Arioto
Ally Carda
Amanda Chidester
Rachel Garcia
Haylie McCleney
Michelle Moultrie
Dejah Mulipola
Aubree Munro
Bubba Nickles
Cat Osterman
Janie Reed
Delaney Spaulding
Kelsey Stewart

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MORE: Softball’s Olympic return will not include NCAA home run record holder

Osterman, Abbott headline 2019 USA Softball roster

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Cat Osterman has two Olympic medals and one of the most impressive resumes in her sport. That didn’t stop her from crying when she learned she’d made the 2019 USA Softball roster.

“I am not even too proud to say I bawled like a baby,” Osterman told ESPN. “I just cried.”

On Monday, USA Softball announced the 18 players who will compete in tournaments and events in the next few months before the roster is trimmed to 15 for the Pan American Games this summer.

Osterman, the youngest member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2004, and Monica Abbott, Osterman’s teammate four years later in Beijing (and the youngest member of that team), are the only two with Olympic experience. The roster includes 13 members of the team that won the WSBC World Championship last summer (including Abbott), qualifying the U.S. for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Osterman and Abbott are two of the most accomplished women in softball: Abbott, 33, pitched a perfect game in an 8-0 victory over the Netherlands at the 2008 Beijing Games, where the U.S. finished with a silver medal. In 2016, the Salinas, California native signed the first $1 million contract in the National Pro Fastpitch League with the Scrap Yard Dawgs (the Texas-based team is now called Scrap Yard Fast Pitch and competes independently).

Osterman, 35, retired in 2015. But in October 2018, she announced her return to the sport, hoping to vie for a spot on the 2020 Olympic team. Currently a pitching coach at Texas State, she had her doubts about coming back to high-level competition: “I struggled in some parts [of the tryout] and felt like I was back to my old self in parts,” she told ESPN. “When you haven’t seen a hitter in a game situation in more than 1200 days, it’s going to take some getting used to.” But Osterman, who pitched in the 3-1 loss to Japan in the 2008 Beijing final, felt she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete for another Olympic spot. “Plain and simple, there’s unfinished business,” she posted on social media when announcing her comeback.

Selection to the 2019 roster does not guarantee players a spot on the Olympic team. USA Softball will conduct separate selection trials in the fall.

The sport will return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. U.S. women won three straight gold medals from 1996 to 2004 before losing to Japan at the Beijing Games.

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Cat Osterman unretires for softball’s Olympic return

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Pitcher Cat Osterman is coming out of a three-year retirement to try out for the U.S. softball team, two years before the sport is played at the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

“My heart is racing with excitement as I post this,” was posted on Osterman’s social media. “Last fall I made the decision to put the cleats back on and give it a go one more time. Plain and simple, there’s unfinished business. I’m honored and excited to be trying out for the @usasoftball USA National Team in January… excited is an understatement when I think of the journey ahead.”

Osterman, 35, last played professionally in 2015 and last played for Team USA in 2010. She has been an associate head coach for Texas State since 2015.

In 2008, she pitched the first five innings of a 3-1 loss to Japan in, at the time, the last Olympic softball game. The sport had already been voted off the Olympic program.

In 2004, Osterman made her first Olympic team at age 21 while taking a year off from the University of Texas. She was the youngest player on the team that took gold in Athens.

“I experienced the greatest joy I think I can ever have, being on top of the world, and then I spent 12 months absolutely beside myself because we got a silver,” Osterman said, according to espnW. “But how many people don’t even get to say they won a silver?”

Osterman joins fellow pitcher Monica Abbott and 39-year-old outfielder Kelly Kretschman as the three Olympians among 41 total athletes trying out for the national team. The oldest U.S. Olympic softball player since the sport was introduced in 1996 was 39-year-old Dr. Dot Richrdson at Sydney 2000.

In 2020, USA Softball will choose a 15-woman Olympic team. Osterman or Abbott, the U.S.’ two primary pitchers at Beijing 2008, would break Lisa Fernandez‘s record as the oldest U.S. Olympic pitcher.

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MORE: U.S. softball qualifies for Olympics, wins worlds on walk-off